John William Waterhouse

British, 1849 - 1917

Ophelia

Date: 1910



Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, sister to Laertes, and rejected lover of Hamlet in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. Ophelia is a symbol of innocence gone mad. A dutiful daughter, she is manipulated into spying on Hamlet and must bear his humiliating and brutal remarks. She believes him to be mad, commenting sadly "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown." Having lost Hamlet's affection, she herself goes mad when her father is killed by Hamlet. Her mad scene (act IV, scene 5) is one of the best known in Western literature. Her madness and death and Hamlet's behaviour at her graveside further inflame Laertes to vengeance.

 

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